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Wednesday, 4 January 2012

French farmer fined for illegally parking tractor - an ocean away from home

Anyone familiar with France will know that it's a large country - a very large country.

First up of course there's the mainland that most (well there are exceptions) people will be able to point to on a map of Europe.

(from Wikipedia)

You know; capital - Paris, borders with Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and Spain and a stretch of water separating it from its oldest friendly enemy, the United Kingdom.

But there's more to it. Much more.

And it comes in the shape of its overseas départements, collectivities and territories.

They all have representatives elected to both the National Assembly and Senate and while the collectivities and territories are autonomous, the five départements are to all intents and purposes part of France.

In other words France isn't just the hexagon-shaped metropolitan area in Europe.

It's also the Indian Ocean islands of Réunion and Mayotte, Guyane française (French Guiana) in South America and the Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe.

And that's worth bearing in mind, because it might go some way to explaining how bureaucratic mistakes can happen, such as the one Didier Labouygues is currently experiencing.

He's a part-time farmer in the village of Gagnac-sur-Cère in southwestern France, hiring himself and his tractor out when there's work to be done.

Last November he received a fine for having parked his tractor illegally and, as the regional daily La Dépêche du Midi reports, at first sight, all seemed to be in order.

But Labouygues read the letter a little more carefully and discovered that the "apparent offence" had taken place in Fort de France - the capital of Martinique, an ocean and several thousand kilometres away!

"I couldn't believe it," he told the newspaper.

"I took the letter along to the police station and was told that it must be some sort of clerical error (note from France Today - No kidding) and I wrote to Le Centre Automatisé de Constatation des Infractions (CACIR) in Rennes. I'm still waiting for a reply."

Of course Labouygues' case is not an isolated one - far from it.

CACIR has proven itself to be well capable in administrative cock-ups - on a frequent basis.

Just ask Patrick Pilak, a farmer in the village of Gouzougnat in the département of Creuse. From December 2010 until August 2011, he received three separate fines for illegally parking his tractor in Paris...admittedly only 400 kilometres away from where he lived and worked.

Another farmer in the département of l'Oise, just north of Paris, received a similar fine in October for apparently having overrun the meter - close to the château de Versailles. Another improbable location for a tractor.

And then there was the case of Gilles Rocher, also in October 2011, a motorist from Capbreton in southwestern France, fined 143 times for the same offence - each letter being delivered separately.

Back to the latest case though, and the last word perhaps should belong to the mayor of Gagnac-sur-Cère, mayor of the village, Danièle Vallin.

She told La Dépêche du Midi that, "CACIR should do its work properly and check on the credibility of a fine before sending out a letter.

And somehow, you can't help thinking that she might have a valid point.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps there is somebody in Martinique using false licence plates?

Anonymous said...

I read recently that until recently, St Barth island was part of the EU. But on January 1st 2012, it left the EU though it still keeps the Euro as a currency.

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